Autoimmune diseases are often complex and difficult to diagnose. And yet, diagnosis and early treatment by a rheumatologist is key to having a positive patient outcome.
The rheumatologists in the Section of Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology at Yale School of Medicine (YSM) are experts at identifying and treating rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases that are often misdiagnosed. A rheumatologist is an internist who has received additional training in the detection and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions commonly referred to as rheumatic diseases.
Women are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases at a rate of about 2 to 1 compared to men. These diseases can affect the joints, muscles, and blood vessels, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity. Conditions treated by rheumatologists include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, and spondyloarthritis.
Here several examples of when primary care providers should consider referring a patient to a rheumatologist:
- If the patient has unexplained joint pains and swelling, their muscle and joint pains are not resolving as you would expect, or their symptoms are getting worse over a short period of time, additional evaluation may be needed.
- If a patient has repeated episodes of joint pains, swelling, fever or skin rash, they should see a rheumatologist.
- Seeing a rheumatologist can lead to early diagnosis and help your patient avoid permanent damage to joints and organs, says Vaidehi Chowdhary, MBBS, MD, DM, associate professor of medicine in the Section of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Immunology at YSM.
- If you would like to have a rheumatologist develop a personalized treatment plan for your patient after gathering the patient’s complete medical history, performing a physical exam, and reviewing results of laboratory tests.
- If a patient gets frequent attacks of gout despite being on medications or if you as their primary care provider has concerns about an underlying rheumatic condition, the patient can be referred to a rheumatologist for an evaluation.
The Section of Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology is one of the eleven academic sections within YSM’s Department of Internal Medicine. To learn more about its work, visit Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology.